A large benefits consulting firm says it sees signs that double-digit increases in health care benefits costs are continuing.[@@]

Researchers at the firm, Buck Consultants, New York, asked 80 insurers and benefits administrators about health coverage prices.

The survey participants expect the rate of increase for preferred provider organization to fall to 12.4% in 2006, from 13.4% this year, and they expect the rate of increase for pharmacy benefits to fall to 11.6%, from 14.2%.

Although the price increases are cooling down, they still exceed 10%, the Buck researchers note.

Buck is a unit of Affiliated Computer Services Inc., Dallas.